THE 58 teachers on Sandy Bay First Nation get edgy every two weeks, wondering whether their paycheques will arrive.
The cheques have been late eight times since June 2012 and teachers are owed a total of at least $737,000, Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) president Paul Olson said Tuesday.
The teachers' union demanded Tuesday Ottawa place the band -- located on the western shore of Lake Manitoba, about 90 kilometres north of Portage la Prairie -- under third-party management.
Officials with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada did not respond Tuesday to an interview request.
"The situation for our members in Sandy Bay has become more than intolerable," Olson told a news conference.
Sandy Bay Chief Russell Beaulieu said he will respond at a news conference this morning in Winnipeg.
Teacher Mike Beaulieu, a band member and 23-year veteran of the staff at Isaac Beaulieu School -- named after his father -- said teachers have even been threatened with layoffs if they push harder for payment.
"Our situation is deplorable. We don't know until the day before, or the day of" whether they'll be paid, he said.
Teacher Marlene Lavasseur said she had to move elsewhere this school year because she couldn't pay her rent, utilities bills and car payments on time when she taught at Sandy Bay last year.
"The cheques kept getting delayed. We weren't getting paid on time," she said.
Olson said MTS was forced to act when Sandy Bay First Nation failed to keep its promise of meeting its financial obligations to teachers by Feb. 1. MTS has never had this kind of problem with any reserve school it represents or any public school division in memory, he said.
Olson said for more than 18 months the band has not been paying its portion of benefits, including pensions, and that while it has been collecting the teachers' portion, has not been remitting those deductions to the Canada Revenue Agency.
"Where the money went after that is anyone's guess," Olson said.
MTS said three teachers who retired in June have not received pension benefits and five teachers on disability leave have not received benefits.
Teachers may look for new jobs after June 30, but they will not withdraw their services, Olson said. "Teachers take their obligations to their kids very seriously."
Olson said morale is low at the school, where fire alarms aren't working, bathrooms lack toilet paper and snow is not cleared.
"School buses transport more students than legally allowed, and they are in disrepair," he said.
Beaulieu said his father founded the school and made the decision to join MTS, and he's followed his father's path.
"That's my home community, that's the school my dad built and I don't want to leave," he said. "My ancestors could not read or write, but they had the foresight to know that education is vital if we are to survive as a people."